Shin pain is quite a common sports injury and is more likely to occur if you have just taken up running, started running again after a break or if your sport involves jumping and landing frequently, basketball for example.

There are two areas which are generally affected; the muscles at the front of your shin (anterior compartment) or the shin bone itself (tibia). Distinguishing between these two areas is vital because they are different issues and require different treatment.

Muscular shin pain (Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome)

Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS) is the medical term for muscular shin pain caused by an increase in pressure which comes on while running.

If your shins become tight and sore roughly at the same point into a run, gradually increase as you keep running and then ease off quickly at the end, then your shin pain is likely to be muscular.

An increase in pressure in the anterior compartment can actually cause nerve compression, so pins and needles, skin numbness or muscle weakness can also be signs of this condition.

Home treatment techniques for muscular shin pain include:

  1. Ice: make an ice massager and use this to massage in small circles along the muscle for 3 – 5 mins.
  2. Taping to support the muscles, provide gentle compression and relieve pain.
  3. Gentle foam rolling when this is comfortable.
  4. You don’t have to stop running entirely, just adjust the distance or pace to a comfortable level or try running on a treadmill until your symptoms settle.
  5. Compression socks help some people while running, so this is definitely worth a try.

Shin bone pain (shin splints and stress fractures) 

Bone pain at the bottom on the inside of your shin is commonly called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS). Shin pain which is worse on impact and not only increases during your run but persists afterwards, means that you are more likely to be experiencing bone, rather than muscular pain. You may also notice tenderness on the bone when you press directly onto the painful area.

If you suspect that your shin pain is coming from the bone, rather than muscle, then you must stop running. Continuing to push your shin bones can lead to a stress fracture, so it’s really important that you rest entirely for about 2 – 4 weeks to let the pain settle. If you actually have a stress fracture, this last for up to 6 weeks.

Ice packs and painkillers can help to relieve pain and you should not consider a ‘return to running programme’ until you can press on your shin bone without any pain at all and hop on the spot at least 20 times, without any pain.

Treatment and exercises for shin pain

I would strongly recommend a physical assessment to give you a proper diagnosis and also help you identify the underlying causes. Anything from weakness around your hips to training errors like sudden spikes in your distance or pace, inefficient running techniques, tight or weak calf muscles or always running on hard surfaces all have the potential to cause shin pain.

A physiotherapist might recommend a course of Shockwave Therapy to relieve pain and improve tissue healing in both muscular and bone pain and provide a programme of corrective exercises specific to your individual issues and movement patterns.

Our simple knee programme will help you start to build strength and control around your hips, knees and ankles in the early stages of rehab:

For more advice or information about shin pain, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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